D66 argues this afternoon in the House of Representatives for an independent investigation into abuse in dance sports. The motion is expected to receive support from at least SP, GroenLinks, PvdA and Bij1.
The House of Representatives talks about cross-border behaviour in both gymnastics and dance, following the Unequal Leggers report on abuses in gymnastics. Two thirds of the former athletes who participated in the large-scale gymsport research were found to have experienced forms of cross-border behaviour. That went from training with injuries to incitement to unhealthy weight loss and from harassment to manipulation, blackmail and isolation.
lot is wrong in the dance world too, say athletes who went through it. Kim Koumans danced at the top level in latin dance. The 39-year-old was said to be frequently abused by trainers and trainers. Also, according to the Brabant based structure, the belittling and assaulting of (underage) dancers.
Koumans was first abused by her dance teacher when she was twelve years old, she says. “You‘re a child, you’re scared, so I paralyzed. I was still abused as an adult. The trainers have power. They‘re a kind of gods in that world — and often jurors too — so your whole career depends on them.”
D66 MP Van der Laan now wants independent research. “In gymnastics, too long has been looked away. Now with the sounds from the dance world, we have to start something right away,” she says. “That starts by noticing what’s going on.”
Koumans expects the motion for investigation to be adopted. “It‘ll be a discharge for me. In addition, I hope that in the meantime, there will be an overarching hotline for cross-border behaviour across the dance sector, with short lines to police, lawyers and assistance.”
D66 will also advocate such a hotline, together with GroenLinks, SP, Bij1 and PvdA and with the support of the VVD. “Very few reports are received at the Centre of Safe Sport”, says MP Van der Laan. “That’s connected to NOC*NSF and sports unions. It‘s a threshold for athletes to report there.”
GroenLinks MP Westerveld believes that the government has a task. “We have seen in recent years that sport can’t solve it itself. The government must ensure that children are safe and yet both gymnasts and dancers have been abused and humiliated for years. In these individual sports, you sometimes spend hours as a child in a separate room with your trainer, the government has to make sure there is supervision and can no longer say: it‘s up to the sport.”
MP Kuiken of the PvdA wants the missionary Secretary of State Blokhuis (ChristenUnie) to look beyond the sport of turn and dance. “Wherever there is a closed world, where outsiders have no knowledge of, little visibility, and interdependence, you can see that a culture of abuse and harassment can easily develop,” she says. “I want to know from the Secretary of State: what else are closed worlds? How do we keep a finger on the pulse and prevent abuse?”
The VVD also wants broad research into cross-border behaviour in sport.
Former dancer Koumans believes that the dance unions and NOC*NSF should offer public excuses. The sports dome recently made an excuse for young gymnasts who were unheard for years. Victims of the turn scandal can receive a financial compensation of 5000 euros.
MP Westerveld has trouble doing that. “It is a standard amount, which the government also uses for victims of violence in youth care, for example. No amount is enough for that suffering, but 5,000 euros for people who suffer mental health damage for their lives is very paltry.”
Both the PvdA and GroenLinks wonder whether the abuses in the sport of turn and dance are part of disciplinary law. Westerveld: “It’s just about child abuse and abuse. Why not criminal law?”
Koumans will not rest for children to dance safely. She quit latin dance a few years ago; she still struggles with the consequences of years of abuse. “I suffer from nightmares and I am in trauma treatment, but I also catch other ‘survivors’ at the same time.” According to Koumans, more than sixty dancers have reported to her with stories of abuse or humiliation.